This week I am reviewing things that are not single malt whisky. On Monday I had a rum; today I have a bourbon.
Monday’s rum was a blend of rums from two unnamed distilleries, one Jamaican and one Guyanese. Today’s bourbon also has some mystery attached to it but in this case I can dispel all of it. Blaum Bros. is a craft distillery in Galena, Illinois, but they did not distill this bourbon. Hence the name: Knotter Bourbon (say it slowly). In an industry rife with brands that tell tall tales about what they do or don’t do, Blaum Bros. are refreshingly transparent. This bourbon is from a barrel acquired from the great MGP factory in Indiana; a barrel that contained 10 yo bourbon. It was bottled for a group of online ne’er do wells, the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers (or LLUA), a group of which I may or may not also be a member. This was, if I remember correctly, the group’s first private barrel selection (both Blaum brothers are also members). I’m a little hazy now on how long ago this was bottled: 2018? 2017? In fact, I thought I’d reviewed it right after I’d opened the bottle whenever it was I received it—and only recently realized that I had never gotten around to it. Now the bottle is past the halfway mark and so it seems like time to put some notes down. Continue reading →
This week’s theme: things that aren’t single malt whiskies. First up, a rum.
I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.
Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading →
Let’s make it a week of not just Speyside whiskies but Speyside whiskies bottled for/by K&L in California. The week started with a 10 yo Dailuaine that I dubbed a very good value at the price. Here now is an 18 yo Linkwood. The Dailuaine is a sherry cask; the Linkwood a refill hogshead. The Dailuaine was still available as of Monday; this Linkwood is sold out. Like Dailuaine, Linkwood is a workhorse distillery in Diageo’s stable that predominantly produces malt for the group’s blends. Which of course means that they are as capable as any other distillery of producing casks that are rather excellent indeed. Monday’s Dailuaine stopped a bit short of sheer excellence; will this Linkwood make it all the way? Let’s see.
Linkwood 18, 2002 (53.9%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of fruit—apples, pears, a bit of lemon. There’s some honey in there too and a mild grassiness. Gets maltier on the nose too with time and air. Some floral sweetness emerges with more time still. With water those sweet notes move in the direction of vanilla and it gets maltier still. Continue reading →
From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.
Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading →
Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.
As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.
Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading →
Back in the middle of 2020 I posted reviews of a trio of whiskies from Edradour. Let’s begin 2021 with reviews of a trio that bear the name Ballechin, aka peated Edradour. Until that trio of Edradours in mid-2020 I had actually only ever reviewed Ballechins from the distillery. And with only one exception—this Signatory release—I had only reviewed official releases, including a number of the cask variations (port, oloroso, marsala, madeira) released during the spirit’s initial march to the first 10 yo release. Since then a number of older Ballechins have hit the market from various indie bottlers. which leads us to this trio which represents the oldest Ballechins I have yet tried. This trio, furthermore, has been bottled by WhiskySponge, the outfit that bears the nickname of its proprietor, Angus MacRaild. The Whisky Sponge first became known to the general populace via the excellent eponymous blog that lampooned the excesses of the industry—and occasionally published more serious commentary as well. Somewhere along the line Angus M. seems to have become an indie bottler himself—more evidence that I really am out of touch with malt whisky developments is that I only noted this relatively recently. He also became a contributing writer on Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun a few years ago. Now Angus seems to be an upstanding type but I have to confess I find a little messy the situation of one independent bottler regularly reviewing releases from his competition on what is undoubtedly the most influential whisky buying guide around—especially for indie releases. Continue reading →
Having reviewed what was said to be “possibly” Speyside’s finest it’s time to move on to what might “plausibly” be Speyside’s finest. The first was rather good, just held back by a bit too much oak and a thinnish texture. Will this one improve on those and other points? Let’s see.
Plausibly Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1982 (46.4%; OMC for K&L; refill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More muted than the other at first with a leafy note with some dusty oak behind. Starts to open after a few beats with lemon and pear and some powdered sugar. With time the pineapple begins to emerge more fully on the nose as well. A few drops of water soften it up and pull out some cream—the dusty oak is long gone. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to end the year with a trio of older whiskies. First up, an indie Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas has long (always?) disallowed the use of its name on independent bottlings and it’s quite common to see variations on “Speyside’s Finest” used instead. This 28 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L this year is named “Possibly Speyside’s Finest”. There’s another bottled alongside named “Plausibly Speyside’s Finest’ (which I might possibly/plausibly review on Wednesday). Now which is a more reassuring qualifier in this context: “Possibly” or “Plausibly”? This follows, by the way, on the heels of last year’s K&L cask which was named “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest”. What’s next? “Purportedly”? “Potentially?” “Perchance”?
As with many indie Glenfarclases (Glenfarclas? Glenfarcli? Glenfarcleaux?), this is from a bourbon cask. It’s always interesting to try whiskies that depart significantly from the home distilleries official profiles. Yes, it’s true that the distillery has also bottled a few ex-bourbon casks in their Family Casks series (for example, this one) but you know what I mean: Glenfarclas is generally synonymous with sherry cask maturation. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading →
Today is the day before Christmas and therefore I have for you a whisky with Christmas in its name. This is the 2021 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s “A Fine Christmas Malt”. It is 16 years old and ostensibly from a mystery distillery. However, at the bottom of the product page for this whisky on the TWE website the links offer “More from Highland Park”. I think this means that this is a Highland Park. Actually, I know it is but don’t ask me how I know: if word gets out that he’s been so indiscreet someone might have to shave his beard. I rather liked the last Highland Park I reviewed of this general age: a 17 yo bottled for K&L. Unlike that one this is not a single cask but a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. A friend visiting London in November muled a bottle back to me. I was expecting it to be sold out by now but somehow it is still available—oh, when will the war on Christmas end? On the other hand, this means I am reviewing yet another currently available whisky. I truly am the king of timely whisky reviewers. Continue reading →
The week began with a review of the current batch of the Kilkerran 8, CS which was put together from first-fill oloroso cask matured spirit. Today’s review is of another sherry cask-matured whisky. This one, from Balvenie in the Speyside, is almost twice the age of the Kilkerran. The old Balvenie 15 Single Barrel series was one of my favourites back when I got into malt whisky in a big way. Those were all single bourbon casks. A little less than 10 years ago or so that series was discontinued in favour of a new 15 y sherry cask series. Unsurprisingly, these releases cost a lot more. The lowest price in the US right now seems to be just under $100 though in most states they cost a lot more than that—in Minnesota the lowest price shown on Winesearcher is currently $130 before tax. The only other cask in the series that I’ve reviewed so far was certainly not a whisky I’d want to pay $130 for—or for that matter even much less. Now, it’s true that there are very few whiskies any more of any age or cask type that I’m willing to pay those kinds of prices for. Will this one turn out to be one of them? Let’s see. I’m not sure when this was bottled, by the way—I assume sometime in the last couple of years. Continue reading →
There have been a few general batch-numbered releases of a Kilkerran 8 CS in recent years. Going off the Whiskybase listings it would appear that the first couple of of these appeared in 2017 (I am not counting previous single cask releases or releases available only at the distillery). The 2017 (Batch 1 and Batch 2) and 2018 (Batch 3) releases were from bourbon casks. I was not the biggest fan of Batch 1 and have not tried the second or third batches. Batch 4 was released in 2019—I reviewed it earlier this year and after an unpromising opening rather liked—and was matured in re-charred oloroso sherry casks. After a year’s break, 2021’s release (Batch 5) is once again from oloroso sherry casks but this time they were first-fill oloroso casks. This is the release I am reviewing today as the first in a week of sherry cask whiskies. On Wednesday I’ll check in with a Balvenie single sherry cask and I’ll close out the week appropriately on Friday with The Whisky Exchange’s recent “A Fine Christmas Malt”. But first let’s get into this one. Continue reading →
Islay week started out with a Bowmore released in 2019 and then took a jump back in time with an Ardbeg Uigeadail released in 2007. We’re now back to the present, indeed back in 2021 itself. Closing out the week is this year’s edition of the Cairdeas, Laphroaig’s annual Feis Ile release. I was not a fan of 2020’s Port & Wine casks release. The release a year before that was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood from the regular lineup. This year’s release is a cask strength version of the PX release (is that still in the core lineup?) which is basically the Triple Wood but with oloroso casks as the third type of cask involved in the maturation (after regular bourbon casks and quarter casks). Will it send the series back in the right direction? Even if it does, I do wish Laphroaig would go back to releasing good young bourbon cask whiskies in this series. All of the Cairdeas releases I’ve liked best have been from bourbon casks. Either that or just give us a straight forward sherry cask release (both 2018’s Fino and 2014’s Amontillado releases were finsihes/double maturations too). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like—maybe it’ll make me eat my words. Continue reading →
Following Monday’s review of a bottle from the first-ever release of the Talisker 18 in 2004, let’s continue Talisker week with another from the distillery’s core range. The Talisker Distillers Edition—like all Diageo’s Distillers Edition releases—is the distillery’s entry-level age-stated malt—in this case the 10 yo—finished for a few months in sherry or wine casks—in this case, Amoroso sherry casks. As I’ve noted before, the only one of these I’ve consistently liked is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. In most of the others the finish has not in my view tended to add very much that’s compelling to the base malt; though I suppose it is always good to have some variation. Such was my view of the only other Talisker Distillers Edition I’ve reviewed—the 2011 release. This one is from four years later. Will it be appreciably different? And will it make me curious enough about more recent releases to seek them out? Let’s see. Continue reading →
I closed out November’s whisky reviews with an independently bottled Highland Park from a bourbon cask. Let’s start December’s whisky reviews with another.
Like Monday’s cask for K&L, which it is four years older than, this one bears the “Orkney” appellation. It’s part of something called the Impex Collection. Impex is a US-based importer. I’m not sure if this Impex Collection business is new in 2021 or if they’ve been at it for a while. I do know the prices being asked for the bottles in the series are enthusiastic. This 21 yo, for example, is going for $200 and up. I suppose that’s low compared to what an official bottle from the distillery of similar age would go for but that’s certainly a price at which I expect a whisky to be very, very good indeed. K&L’s 17 yo cost a scant $80 and it was very good indeed. Let’s see if this one can match it. Continue reading →
Here to close out the month is a Highland Park. This is my first Highland Park review since June when I reviewed three in a week. One of those was an official single sherry cask; another was an ex-bourbon cask with a rum finish from the SMWS; and the third was a regular bourbon hogshead bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Like the BB&R cask this too is a bourbon hogshead and like it it bears not the distillery’s name on the label but a reference to Orkney. As you may know, Highland Park no longer allows indie bottlers to put their name on labels. Well, whatever the name on the label, I am a big fan of bourbon cask Highland Park and I hope this will turn out to be more evidence of how good those casks can be. I will maintain this optimism even though this particular cask was selected by K&L as part of their 2021 releases. It was very reasonably priced too—now long sold out, I think. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Ben Nevis is located less than 50 miles drive from Oban but the profiles of the distilleries’ malts are much further away from each other. Where Oban produces a relatively austere spirit, Ben Nevis puts out what can fairly be called a consistently funky one. Independent releases in recent years have done a lot to improve the distillery’s reputation and the official 10 yo was excellent too when I last checked in on it (I’m not sure of its current status). It’s no secret to those who read the blog regularly that I really enjoy Ben Nevis—exactly one year ago I placed it in the list of my five favourite distilleries. Their whiskies are not always great but they’re always interesting. Let’s see if this one manages to be both. It was bottled a couple of years ago by the Laings’ Old Particular label as part of a series of “cards”—I think there were cards for various regions. Ben Nevis, appropriately, was named “King of the Hills”. Continue reading →
Let’s continue with highlands week but swing around from Ardmore in the eastern highlands, all the way to Oban in the west.
With this review I believe Oban joins the very small list of distilleries all members of whose core lineups I have reviewed. Unless things have changed since I last looked, the 14 yo, the Distiller’s Edition and the NAS Little Bay are the only others in that core Oban lineup (I’m not counting “distillery only” bottlings or those that have shown up in Diageo’s annual special releases). The 18 yo was first released in 2008 as a special release but has since become a fixture. It’s somewhat unusual in that it is an exclusive for the US market where it goes from $100-$130. At least it used to be a US exclusive—I assume it still is given how few entries there are for it in the EU-centric Whiskybase listings. I believe it’s matured in all first-fill American ex-bourbon casks. As to whether it is made with malt peated to a higher degree than the 14 yo, I don’t know. The 14 yo is barely peated—too only about 2 ppm—but I picked up notes of smoke from my bottle anyway. I’m curious to see where this 18 yo bottled in 2020 (as per the bottle code) will fall on that front. The last time I had the Oban 18 was about a decade ago and I have no memory or notes of it. Continue reading →